Brook Silva-Braga, One Day in Africa and the film festival circuit

This is season of film festivals. Brook Silva-Braga and his movie “One Day in Africa” drew me to the Cleveland International Film Festival a week ago Saturday. It was the premiere weekend of his film and I didn’t want to miss it. Plus, Brook was going to be there. Ever since his guest blogger run at Gadling, I’ve been keeping up with his travels and wanted to meet the guy behind such interesting work.

I was able to catch up with Brook at the film’s second viewing at 9:20 a.m. Even with the early time slot, the theater was full, the audience alert and Brook an engaging story teller. After the film, he fielded questions from the audience and stuck around later for further conversation.

The movie pulled me back to places in West Africa where I’ve traveled myself, and throughout I kept thinking–oh, I recognize that. I remember.

The first details I noticed were the sounds. The thwacking of the wooden mortar and pestle, the swoosh swooshing of a broom across a carpet, grain rubbing against each other in a calabash as women’s fingers sort though to pick out small pebbles and chafe, a farming tool turning over dirt in a field, and the children’s voices.

For a region of the world Brook had never been to before, he intuited the specifics of the cadence of the people in each country. Interestingly, although six countries were represented, if he had gone to The Gambia, he would have found people with similar stories. What’s striking about these stories is how they illustrate how access to education and services have such an influence over people’s lives.

Access to a clinic for child birth and the differences between how men relate to their wives are shown along with how each person views his or her own opportunites–or lack of. In The Gambia there are people who also struggle to acquire water and coax crops out of dry land and others who are hooked into services and have found economic success in the world economy.

Because Brook found his subjects in different African countries, the result is that there’s a notion that the continent does have factors that unify the people despite the differences in ethnic groups, politics, religion and geography.

During the question and answer period, Brook told about the choices he made as a film maker and the serendipity that hooked him up with his subjects. When he crossed over into Morocco to start filming, he had a loose plan, but was not sure what or whom he would find. The result is that as he found out more about each of the people he chose as subjects, so did the audience.

In the mix f the six people’s stories are the hard to answer questions about sustainable development, women’s and men’s roles in society, the disparity of educational opportunities, the consequences of political strife, how religion can influence world views, and the role of western culture in Africa. There are the underlying issues of changes need to be made–if any.

Even though it’s been more than a week since I saw the movie, I find myself thinking about the people whose stories Brook captured so well, and I can still hear the sounds of grain, the earth and their voices.

There are more opportunities to catch One Day in Africa. Here are two of them this month.

Boston International Film Festival on April 18 at 8:30 p.m. AMC/LOEWS
theater, Boston Common: 175 Tremont St. There is another short film showing at 8:00 as part of the same session.

Newport Beach Film Festival at Newport Beach, Calfornia on April 29 at 1:30